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Journey to the Sun: Junipero Serra's Dream and the Founding of California Hardcover – January 14, 2014


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 465 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (January 14, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451642725
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451642728
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #131,166 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

One merely has to look at the place names in modern California to confirm the enduring legacy of the Spanish colonization of the area. To a great extent, the initial success of that effort to “civilize” California was due to the labors in the eighteenth century of the Franciscan priest Junipero Serra. Driven by intense religious devotion and a restless, adventurous spirit, Serra abandoned a promising and secure teaching position in Spain in 1749 to sail to the New World. After 15 years as an administrator and preacher in Mexico City, he began the work of founding a series of missions in Alta (upper) California. Here Orfalea reveals the sheer toughness, courage, and even fanaticism of his subject, as Serra founds a series of missions, often traveling in solitude while plagued by a severely ulcerated leg. As Orfalea acknowledges, the results for the Indians who were attached to the missions were mixed and certainly did not prevent the demographic collapse of the Indian population. Still, this admiring and admirable biography pays tribute to an essential figure in the early development of California. --Jay Freeman

Review

"A popular, highly readable history of an important figure...Orfalea's book is polished and professional." (LA Times)

"A California story becomes an American story...[a] passionate resurrection of the largely forgotten Spanish Franciscan priest who founded the early missions along the California coast...this sympathetic portrait of the well-meaning though flawed priest...sifts carefully through the record...A doggedly researched and fulsomely argued biography." (Kirkus)

“One merely has to look at the place names in modern California to confirm the enduring legacy of the Spanish colonization of the area. To a great extent, the initial success of that effort was due to the labors of the Franciscan priest Junipero Serra. This admiring and admirable biography pays tribute to an essential figure in the early development of California.” (Booklist)

Journey to the Sun is a highly readable, interpretive account of Junipero Serra's life. Gregory Orfalea brings his vast breadth of knowledge to fleshing out a humanistic narrative of a man whose history is often distorted and confounding. A brilliant biography about a key Hispanic figure in the launching of American history.” (Daniel E. Krieger, Professor of History, Emeritus, California Polyte)

“Orfalea's riveting narrative significantly enriches our grasp of the illusive and controverted Junipero Serra with delightful episodes from his life in Spain and Mexico based on the author's painstaking research never before reported. Arguably, Serra comes alive in this volume as in no other. Great story-telling and fast-moving action together with a stupendous familiarity with the bibliography on Serra make this an original and substantive addition to the field. Scholars and the general public will find this volume enlightening and a good read.” (Allan Figueroa Deck, SJ, Casassa Chair and Professor of Theological Studies, Loyola Marymount University)

“Orfalea's lively and engaging narrative not only humanizes Junipero Serra, but just as important takes into consideration the cultural perspectives of California Indians as they engaged the Spanish colonial world.” (John R. Johnson, Ph.D., Curator of Anthropology, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History)

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The author's succinct style and careful research makes this book highly interesting and readable.
Emerito D. Posadas
We hunger now for justice for a past time of great harm, but from a far later perspective that cannot easily know the real limits of human understanding as it was.
Gregory B H
Greg, I just finished your book and wanted to let you know how impressed I was with your writings.
Dennis Nulman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By BookVodney on January 14, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
This is a fabulous study of early California history in the late 18th century. You will be taken on a journey of discovery, secular quest, political struggle between Spanish administration & religious quest, and more importantly understand the end result: the suffering & Christian transformation of the aboriginal people who comprised the land we know as California. The primary character: Friar Junipero Serra was a deeply devoted aging Franciscan tasked as a missionary to bring the pagan natives into the fold of the Church and develop into loyal subjects of the Spanish empire. King Charles the III, recently diminished the power of the Jesuits (who typically were the missionaries), and looked to the Franciscan's to seek out and grow the Church & Empire.

The North American west course was vital to Spain's growth to build trade with the Philippines. Serra a self-flagellating pious Friar in his mid- 50's was assigned to lead the Franciscan effort to grow the Catholic religion and establish the Church in this new land. In spite of the local Spanish government and military disruptions - Serra was able to establish nine missions, and baptized 6000 people. He also converted the natives from nomads into herders & farmers. The new communities thrive with the new existence, but later many died from European disease with venereal disease being the leading cause of death. The Friars of course acted upon extreme measures to control the spread - locking up young women at night and flogging those in relationships. Serra worked himself to death eventually, but thought iron willed devotion planted the seeds of Cathoism which remains strong to this day in modern California.

The author did a great job developing this time into a very readable format that describes the tough character and will of Serra, and his very strong influence on American history.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By bedwards on February 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I grew up in California and went East to college. Our home was in the Sacramento Valley, near the Mother Lode, and my great grandparents on both sides settled in Santa Barbara in the 1800s. In New England it is taken for granted that America's early history was all home-grown and a local phenomenon. California, they assumed, had the Beach Boys ..... and that was about it.

But I've cared about Junipero Serra since I was a little kid, visiting relatives near the Santa Barbara Mission. Too many years later, my wife and I have loved to travel. Often, although I'm not very religious, we find ourself walking in Father Serra's footsteps. We've been to his birthplace in Petra, Mallorca, to Baja California churches such as the one in Loreto, and of course to most of the California missions. My most recent birthday was spent on an over-night at Hearst's Hacienda at Camp Hunter Liggett, in the shadow of Serra's third mission. A month ago we enjoyed every station of the Huntington Library's Father Serra exhibit. Of course I purchased Professor Hackel's history ("Junipero Serra") and quickly consumed it.

"Journey to the Sun" explores Junipero Serra's life and what it meant to California. I could feel the Franciscan's pain on the rough and risky trails he chose, and Author Orfalea makes very clear the devotion that drove Serra forward. He paints a vivid picture of what California was like at the very time New England was holding it's American Revolution. One chapter is devoted almost entirely to describing how the native people lived BEFORE the arrival of these Spanish holy men and soldiers.

This is not a "revisionist history". The missionaries meant not to subjugate the Indians, but to save their souls. They were also frail human beings who failed in some important ways. Junipero Serra struggled against unimaginable hurdles and hardships. Professor Orfalea brings it all to life.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Emerito D. Posadas on January 20, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I have visited 4 California missions so far. What I needed was a book to educate me about how and why these missions were established throughout California 250 years ago. The author makes Serra come alive in every page. Serra's unrelenting faith inspite of the odds to built these missions is impressive. The author's succinct style and careful research makes this book highly interesting and readable.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Christina Dudley on March 5, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Every kid who grows up in the Bay Area has probably seen the statue of Junipero Serra along 280, as well as had the assignment of building a mission of one's choice out of sugar cubes. (My sister and I joked about starting a black market site when her kids hit the age: "I'll trade you a Mission Santa Barbara for a San Juan Capistrano.") But that was the extent of my knowledge.

Now that I live in WA State, when I heard about this book, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia and quickly put it on my to-read list. I'm glad I did! Author Gregory Orfolea has written a lyrical, sympathetic, and fascinating portrait of a brave and compassionate visionary who lived in exciting times. (The book reminded me several times of another favorite, Willa Cather's DEATH COMES FOR THE ARCHBISHOP.)

Can I say how glad I am that we're past the stage we were in when I was in grad school, where Colonialists = Vicious Murderers Who Did Everything Wrong and Natives = Utopian Residents in a State of Nature? Orfolea did an even-handed job representing the cultural factors at play on each side.

Having only seen Mission San Jose in Fremont, Serra's story made me want to schedule a road trip this summer to check out some of the other Serra-founded ones within reach, not to mention putting Mexico City on the bucket list.

Who knew that he only began his "Alta California" work when he was 56? (Take that, early retirement!)That he suffered for the rest of his life from a spider bite received when he landed in Veracruz, Mexico, upon reaching the New World? That male California Indians went around buck naked, and only added breechcloths after encounters with the Spanish? That explorer DeAnza was the one who noticed and marked "El Palo Alto," which I drove past every stinking day for years?

Lots of goodies in here. If you like CA history, the Spanish Conquest, and sympathetic Catholic history, give this book a try.
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